Why Should Academic Advising Affect Your College Choice?
Visit any college campus for an open house or take in a tour and information session and you will hear a few comments about academic advising. While academic advising is not the most discussed topic on a college visit, it could turn out to be an important reason to choose one college over others.
Depending on the college and academic programs, academic advising is handled either by faculty or professional advisors. A smaller college will typically ask faculty who might also be asked to teach a seminar course to their freshman advisees. A larger school might organize professional advisors to work with students who have already expressed interest in a major or are undecided. Honors colleges at larger schools also have academic advisors on staff.
A student’s working relationship with their advisor can have a positive or negative impact on their success in college. Effective academic advising takes into account:
- The student’s academic, professional and personal interests as they lead towards completing a degree and advancing to further education and/or employment after graduation.
- The advisor’s understanding that students need to be in a position to declare a major, sometimes after choosing between possible majors, as well as completing a degree.
- The advisor’s persistence at getting their students to do what they need to do. The advisor’s job is to give a student a polite push, and sometimes a pat on the back, not to take them by the hand.
- The advisor’s ability to listen to their students and, if necessary address concerns expressed by parents. A smart advisor not only knows the academic journeys available to students; s/he also has a network on campus to help answer what s/he does not know.
But academic advising, even well intentioned, can also go wrong. It is a service performed by people who have different levels of knowledge as well as varied ambitions. At smaller schools that use faculty as advisors, freshman academic advising competes with the time that they must dedicate to the students who have declared a major in their academic department, teach classes and do research. The teaching loads at smaller colleges, especially those that are not research universities is greater than it is at much larger schools.
Here are two other ways that academic advising can go wrong:
- The advisor may lead students into the wrong courses. S/he may push them to hard towards fulfilling general education requirements during the first and second-year and not them to be a position to choose a major as a sophomore. Or the advisor may accede to a student’s wishes to take a course with no prerequisites that sounds interesting, but fulfills no requirements towards a degree or major.
- The advisor can inject bias into conversation that does not help the student. For example, when I attended college, the pre-law advisor had one set of suggestions for students who had high SAT scores from high school, and another for students who did not.
Success in college, like at work, depends not only on being diligent and willing to learn. It also requires students to develop better rapport with adults than they did with their high school teachers. A successful relationship built with faculty and staff through academic advising does a great deal to help a new student settle into college and begin to build rapport with other adults on campus.
For more help in comparing colleges and their academic advising practices, contact me at email@example.com or call me at 609-406-0062